About the Book

Title: New Boy In Town
Published: 1960
Swoonworthy Scale: 2

Cover Story: Vintage
BFF Charm: Yay!
Talky Talk: Golly, This Book Sure Is Old!
Bonus Factors: Kickass Parents, 1950s
Relationship Status: Elderly BFF

Cover Story: Vintage

I borrowed this book from a friend, who in turn got it from her mother’s childhood book collection. Its age shows, but in the best possible way. I love everything about this cover. I love Nancy Jo’s haircut, I love that the New Boy looks like he’s 35, and I love that his pet dachshund is freakishly large. At a certain point, things that were once weird or embarrassing become old enough that they’re just delightfully kooky.

The Deal

Nancy Jo is starting her senior year of high school and is focused on one goal–going to college. Prepared to spend her year sequestered in her room, studying for for exams, Nancy Jo is happily distracted by a new arrival in town. John Forbes is smart, good-looking, and talented. But when he starts returning her interest, Nancy Jo can’t help but notice the differences between his posh, wealthy family and her own working-class roots, especially when she’s constantly worried about how to pay for college. Nancy Jo must struggle not only with balancing a social life, school work, and a job, but also her own insecurities surrounding her social class.

BFF Charm: Yay!

Yay BFF Charm

I LOVE Nancy Jo! I’ll be the first to admit that homegirl has some issues–she has bad self-esteem and a serious inferiority complex about her father being a lowly mechanic with dirt under his fingernails. But when you consider the world she comes from–an uneducated working class family in 1960–the fact that she wants nothing more than to go to college is pretty impressive. On top of that, she’s not satisfied with following the prescribed path for her, even with college. Nancy Jo is not afraid to dream big, which makes her constant fear of failure a little more sympathetic and understandable.

Swoonworthy Scale: 2

This book unsurprisingly chaste, but that does not account for the poor swoon score. On the contrary, John and Nancy Jo have some pretty adorable moments, like when they both surreptitiously take pictures of each other on a school field trip. I’m normally all about subtle, understated swoon in books! The problem here is John.

John… kind of sucks. There’s nothing wrong with him, but he lacks pizazz. His favorite hobbies are doing history homework and scolding Nancy Jo about being insecure. Maybe I’m not giving him enough credit; he’s good at photography, and apparently a stellar dancer. But he just doesn’t seem to be passionate about anything.

I could get over his insipid personality if I thought Nancy Jo was actually interested in him. She only likes him because he’s there and conveniently bland enough for her to project all of her boy fantasies on to. As a first boyfriend, he’s fine, but I’m excited for Nancy Jo to go to college and dump his sorry ass.

Talky Talk: Golly, This Book Sure Is Old!

This book was published in 1960, so the language is of a certain era. Early on, I got concerned that the writing would be distractingly antiquated because of all the slang, but it was actually fine! I was impressed by how well the book translates to modern day. Despite the language, Nancy Jo is very much a timeless character, expressing similar emotions and concerns as YA heroines and kids today. Teen angst transcends all generations, I guess.

Bonus Factor: Kickass Parents

Parents from Easy A smiling and looking into a laptop during a video chat

Mr. and Mrs. Marshall are THE BEST PARENTS EVER. Evidence:

  • Mrs. Marshall bakes cookies for her children every day.
  • Mr. Marshall is perpetually saving the day by showing up and fixing everyone’s broken-down cars.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Marshall want nothing more than to be able to send their children to college, even though it’s very expensive and they didn’t go to college themselves. They also don’t gender discriminate.
  • Even when Nancy Jo is being kind of an asshat who is embarrassed of her working class family, Mr. and Mrs. Marshall give her space to figure her shit out.

Seriously, they’re great.

Bonus Factor: History

paper in a typewriter with the word HISTORY typed

So Nancy Jo gets really into history with the encouragement of John and her teachers. Specifically, she’s interested in learning about how people lived in past eras. Which is pretty cool, because, hey! That’s exactly the reason I read this book. Nancy Jo lived in a pretty sweet time period, and I’m kind of jealous. My favorite part is when Nancy Jo goes to a party where they draw different dance styles out of a hat and have to dance Foxtrot, Tango, and Rock ‘N Roll. WHY WAS THAT NOT MY HIGH SCHOOL REALITY? Also, John picks up Nancy Jo for the party in his mom’s Hillman-Minx. Swoon!

Relationship Status: Elderly BFF

Book, I could listen to your stories all day long. You are kind of fixated on living in the past, but that’s ok because you’re old, and I like hearing about the time when you grew up. I’ll definitely keep visiting you at the nursing home. I’ll help you manage your bingo cards and you can tell me more about your high school beaux.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received neither money nor cocktails for writing this review (dammit!). New Boy in Town is available now.

Alix is a writer and illustrator who spends way too much time reading Jane Austen retellings of varying quality.